Oh God. It had been smoking hot, incredibly so. In fact, she could still feel the hard, rippling muscles beneath his shirt, the slow and reassuringly steady beat of his heart under the palm of her hand. The way it’d sped up when his mouth had covered hers.
“Not that anyone believes you about not liking him, by the way,” Elle said. “When he showed up in Archer’s office this morning looking all hot and edgy, needing to kick some serious Ethan ass, I—”
“Wait, what?” Willa asked, sitting up straight. “Keane went to Archer’s office?”
Elle went brows up. “He didn’t tell you.”
“Do I look like he did?”
“No,” Elle murmured thoughtfully, tapping a perfectly manicured fingernail to her chin. “Which actually makes him even hotter now.”
“For keeping secrets?”
“For caring so much about your safety. That, or he already knows how stubborn and obstinate you are.”
Willa shook her head. She couldn’t go there right now. “Did anyone else see the kiss?”
Just then, Rory stuck her head out the back door of South Bark. “Okay, not that I’m judging or anything,” she called out, “but are you going to stand around all day kissing hot guys who you pretend not to like, or are we going to get some work done?”
“I think it’s safe to say someone else saw,” Elle said dryly.
Keane went back to Vallejo Street for what should’ve been a hot shower but he decided cold would be best under the circumstances. He was pretty certain a guy couldn’t die from a bad case of needing to be buried balls deep inside a certain strawberry blonde, green-eyed pixie, but he figured the icy shower might ensure it.
It didn’t help.
After, he didn’t go to either North Beach or the Mission District project, both of which needed his attention. Nor did he hit his desk to unbury himself from paperwork. Instead he got busy on the finish work at the Vallejo Street house—the trim, the floorboards, the hardware for the windows and doors . . . the last of what had to be done before the place could be put on the market.
At first, Pita watched him suspiciously from the open doorway. Then she slowly and deliberately worked her way into the room to bat at a few wood shavings. When she got too close to his planer, he stopped. “Back up, cat. Nothing to see here.”
Instead, she sat and stared at him, her tail twitching.
“Suit yourself.” When he looked up an hour later, she’d curled up on the wood floor in the sole sunspot and had fallen asleep. He heard the sound of Sass’s heels coming down the hallway and looked up as she appeared.
“Bad news,” she said.
“We didn’t get the permits for the Mission project?”
“Worse,” she said.
“There’s not really a Santa Claus?”
She didn’t laugh. Didn’t snort. Didn’t ream him out for being an insensitive dumbass. Shit. “What is it?” he asked. “Just tell me.”
“It’s your great-aunt Sally,” she said quietly. “Her doctor’s admin called here because you’re listed as her next of kin.”
This was news to him. “What’s wrong?”
“Apparently she needs to go into an assisted-living facility.”
“Why, what’s wrong with her?” Answers to this question bombarded him. Heart failure. Cancer . . .
“Rheumatoid arthritis,” Sass said. “It’s acting up and she can’t get around like she used to, taking care of an apartment or herself without help. They’ve got a facility lined up—it’s the one she wants, but there’s a problem.”
“Killing me, Sass,” he said, pressing a thumb and a finger into his eye sockets.
“She doesn’t have the money, Keane. She needs five grand up front for the first month.”
“Tell them they’ll have it today,” he said.
“You know how many zeroes that is, right? And her insurance won’t kick in until month three, so—”
“Tell them they’ll have whatever they need, Sass.”
“Okay.” Her voice was softer now, more gentle. “I realize you’re all alpha and manly and won’t want to hear this, but I have to say it anyway—this is incredibly generous of you—”
“Is there anything else?”
“Actually, yes,” she said, “and for you this is going to be the worst part, so girdle your loins, pull up your big-girl panties, and anything else you have to do to face the music.”
“I swear to God, Sass, just tell me all of it or—”
“She can’t have a pet at this place,” she said quickly. “Not even a goldfish.”
Keane turned around and stared at Pita, still sleeping calmly, even sweetly, in that sunspot. He might’ve been warmed by the sight if it hadn’t been for the wrecked box of finishing nails that she’d pulled apart, which lay all around her like the fallen dead.
Shit. He blew out a breath, dropped his tool belt, and headed to the door. “Text me the address for the place.”
“Only if you promise me you’re not going over there guns blazing to dump that sweet little cat on them. You’ll get Sally kicked out before she’s even in there.”
Not that he would love nothing more than to dump the antichrist on someone, anyone, but even he wasn’t that much of a bastard. “Just get me the damn info, including their phone number.”
“Why don’t you let me handle the transfer,” she started, sounding worried. “I’ll get someone to help her pack and—”
“I want to see the place and check up on it, okay? She doesn’t have any other family who’ll give a shit.”
She stared at him, eyes suspiciously shiny, and Keane stilled. “What are you doing?”
She tilted her head up and stared at the ceiling, blinking rapidly. “Nothing.” But she sniffed and waved a hand back and forth in front of her face.
Oh, Jesus. “You’re . . . crying?”
“Well, it’s all your fault!” she burst out with. “You’re being sweet and it’s my time of the month!”
He wasn’t equipped for this. “First of all, I’m not even close to sweet. And second, I bought you stuff for that, it’s in the hall bathroom.”